- Planning the trip
- US Airways Shuttle to New York and the Sheraton JFK
- Cathay Pacific First Class, New York – Hong Kong
- The Pier Lounge and Cathay Pacific Business Class, Hong Kong – Bangkok
- Conrad Bangkok Deluxe Suite
- Bangkok Airways Business Class, Bangkok – Koh Samui
- Conrad Koh Samui, 2 Bedroom Ocean Pool Villa
- Conrad Koh Samui, Resort
- Bangkok Airways Business Class, Koh Samui – Bangkok
- Cathay Pacific Business Class, Bangkok – Hong Kong and Marriott SkyCity Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong – Chicago
- United Airlines Back Home
The hotel dropped us off curbside and we entered the impressive Hong Kong airport. It doesn’t quite compare to Singapore’s Changi but it’s certainly one of the best and most impressive airports in the world.
Though our bags were already checked, and boarding passes printed at the Bangkok transit desk the day before, I stopped at the first class check-in desk to confirm that our bags had been properly tagged to Chicago O’Hare. In Koh Samui Bangkok Airways had tagged our bags to Hong kong, where Cathay told us they re-tagged them to Chicago for us and we didn’t need to pick them up on arrival the night before. But I wanted to make sure.
A couple of quick phone calls and this was confirmed, we headed through security and passport control. Lines were short and we were through in no time. Then it was off to the lounge. We were flying out of one of the clsoest gates, so we’d be using the Wing. Instead of just turning left after immigration and walking up to the first class entrance, I went into autopilot. I walked down the escalator and through the duty free area, and all the way down the corridor on the departures level to the business class entrance of the Wing. Why? Probably because that’s how I entered the Wing the last time I was there, and even though I was flying in first class. I had gone to the business class checkin desk and was sent up the elevator to the first class portion of the lounge.
When I got to (what turns out to be the recently-reopened entrance of) the business class lounge, I showed my boarding pass and lounge invitation. They said “but you’re supposed to go to the first class lounge.” There was no elevator upstairs, because the lounge renovations meant that the business class portion of the upstairs was closed. So I had to walk back down the corridor of departure gates, back through the duty free, up the escalator, and then down the hall past the exit of passport control in order to get to the entrance of the first class side of the lounge.
The best, most unique feature of the first class side of the Wing are The Cabanas, really just shower rooms but with bathtubs and their own deck with lounge chairs which look out over a creek inside the lounge. But having gotten up in the morning at my hotel there was no need for a shower on this visit.
Instead, I poked my head into the “The Library” which was empty
Before settling into the open air seating of the lounge, which I much prefer because of all of the light and the view over airport operations.
I visited the first class dining room, I’ve never been of fan of it though. While the lounge itself is quite open and bright, the dining room has no windows. Service is good, you’re immediately met as you walk in with an offer to be seated. But I don’t find it a comfortable or relaxing space, I’d rather just make a plate and take it to my seat in the main lounge area. That way I can sit on a comfortable couch with my laptop while snacking. So that’s what I did.
Back at my place on the couch, the lounge attendant brought me some coffee and I caught up on email while snacking on dim sum. In the past I’ve been really disappointed in the food quality, this time it was much improved.
I also walked over to the slow antiquated desktop computers so that I could check in for my United flight home from Chicago to DC, which was on a separate ticket. I pulled up my reservation but I couldn’t check in, the system said it couldn’t find my e-ticket associated with the reservation. No worries, I had a long layover booked in Chicago since I was on a separate ticket and it was Thanksgiving weekend (who knows how easy it would be to get on a later flight if I missed mine). I assumed it had something to do with my upgrade and didn’t worry about it.
Soon enough it was time to head down to the gate for boarding, so again out the lounge, down the escalator, through duty free, and down the corridor on the departures level. Once to the gate there were two lines into the gate area (one for economy and one for premium cabin passengers). Once through the line people were directed to security contractors at tables who would search carryons and confiscate liquids.
Hong Kong doesn’t require taking liquids out at the security checkpoint, people can buy their liquids inside the terminal but those cannot be taken onboard. I’d hate to be a coach passenger departing Hong Kong since there’s no ability to bring bottled water onboard to be self-sufficient in hydrating.
After my laptop bag and carryon were thoroughly searched we boarded the aircraft and settled in for the long flight.
Newspapers and pre-departure beverages were served, I began with Krug
Amenity kits were distributed
I was given my pajamas, and it was soon time to begin our takeoff roll
Once airborne, drinks and nuts were served, I don’t know if the nuts were heated because I’m not a fan of almonds.
Menus were distributed, and I let the flight attendant know that I’d be taking lunch across the aisle in my wife’s suite. I went over and belted myself into the buddy seat, the flight attendant came over and installed the table extender and set our places.
Caviar and Balik salmon “Tsar Nicolaj”
Cannellini veloute with extra virgin olive oil, toasted fennel and lobster medallion
Traditional caesar salad
Slow simmered veal shoulder and parsnips, herb vinaigrette
Eggplant and roasted garlic agnolotti with saffron tomato cream sauce, asparagus and peppers
Double boiled chicken with American ginseng soup
Cold plate – Szechuan styyle jelly fish and cucumber salad
Braised duck with taro in preserved red beans sauce
Deep fried prawn with sweet vinegar sauce
Served with steamed jasmine rice and sautéed pea sprout
Cheese and Dessert
Stilton, Pecorino, St. Paulin, Camembert
Fresh berries with cream
Warm hazelnut cake with chocolate ice cream and vanilla sauce
Lotus seed paste sweet soup
Tea and Coffee
At that point I realized that my camera battery had died. I managed to extricate myself from the seat, it’s a tight fit with the table extender installed but I went over to get my camera’s power adapter to plug into the seat. While it recharged I skipped taking photos of the first course, but then I’ve shown pictures of Cathay Pacific’s caviar and salmon service multiple times in the past on this blog so I didn’t think anyone would be missing much.
After the caviar, my wife had the Chinese soup and I had the Western first course.
We both did Chinese after that, she the prawns and I the duck.
I was feeling replete and neither of us were up for dessert so we shared a cheese plate.
Back to my seat, I had a cappuccino which they brought with pralines.
A bit of relaxing and I decided to change into my pajamas. While I was gone a flight attendant made up my bed but left it in relaxation mode rather than fully flat, perfect for a bit of movie watching before trying to get some sleep. Normally I had a hard time sleeping on a long haul flight that leaves before noon! But after a hard week of relaxation I was strangely tired and began to drift off fairly quickly.
I decided to sleep, but didn’t find it easy. The cabin was filled 5 of 6, in front of me was a man who had just crossed the million miles threshold with Marco Polo Club, something that the flight attendant acknowledged when greeting him. On the other side of the cabin was a late 30s husband and wife with a lap infant that must have been pushing the two year old cap for that status. The child was well-behaved as far as such things go, no crying, but unfortunately the parents weren’t so well-behaved.
After the meal the parents began playing with the kid, he was running back and forth in the cabin between the two seats and while he wasn’t yelling per se he didn’t exactly have an airplane voice. The loud baby talk made it difficult to fall asleep, I’d nod off for a moment and then I’d be woken. My wife wasn’t tired, so I quickly dismissed the idea because I didn’t want to seek refuge in a different cabin than she was in, but I considered asking to downgrade to business class so I could get some sleep. I saw the gentleman ahead of me was visually disturbed. He kept getting up and looking around before settling back into his seat.
I finally got up, looked over my wife’s suite at the parents on the other side, and just gave a look. And I kept looking. They stopped encouraging the kid, he quieted down, and I was able to settle into my bed and get some rest.
While trying to fall asleep I began pondering the age-old question of children in first class. I was frustrated so I began thinking that children just do not belong in an international first class cabin. But what if they were relegated to business class? They’d disturb the larger business class cabin! Should children be relegated to coach? Sure those seats cost less (hey, I was using miles for my first class seat!) but the last thing you need in a mass of people is a crying baby! I don’t know that class of service restrictions make sense. Especially when the kid who was prompting my thoughts really wasn’t at fault. It was the parents. I totally get that they were tiring him out, or just oblivious, or amusing themselves. The kid didn’t cry, he was just loud. Very loud. I do question whether making purely discretionary transpacific journeys with a child under two makes sense, or at least I think that parents should take fellow passengers into consideration when deciding whether to take such a trip. They should consider not taking it, only take the most well-behaved and docile children, and take every possible precaution to try to minimize disruption for the rest of the cabin.
With those thoughts I did manage to get substantial sleep despite a fairly bumpy ride across the Pacific. By the time I had had my first meal, watched a bit of television without purpose, and slept six hours we were about 10 hours into our 13 hour flight time. I never partook of the snack menu:
Hong Kong style egg tart
Shrimp and lemon cream cheese, mango cheddar cheese chutney, parma ham with sun-dried tomato and cornichon
Shui gaw with choy sum in noodle soup
Briased beef and tendon with chu hou sauce in ho fun noodle soup
From our series of classic Signature dishes
Hot pot rice with preserved meat, served with sliced chicken soup with Ceylon spinach
After a bit more StudioCX I decided to take my breakfast.
Orange, apple or grapefruit juice
Mango & passion fruit smoothie
Fresh seasonal fruit
Natural or fruit yoghurt from Le Ferme due Manege
Organic free range eggs – freshly scrambled, fried, or boiled
Served with your choice of pan-fried potato cake with cheese and spring onion, broiled back bacon, pan-fried pork sausage, roasted vine ripened tomato and parsley, sautéed mixed fresh mushrooms
Dim sum served with chili sauce
Pork siu mai with scallop, seafood dumpling, chicken and ham in bean curd skin, conpoy vegetable dumpling, beef meatball
Abalone and chicken congee, stir-fried rice roll with dried shrimp and spring onion in X.O. sauce
Assorted breakfast bread and fresh toast
Served with MRs. Bridges Scottish preserves, Tasmanian meadow honry and butter
Tea and Coffee
I skipped the starters except for some fresh squeezed orange juice (one of my favorite pleasures on an airplane) and began with the eggs:
Followed by the dim sum, I really can’t skip dim sum on a Cathay Pacific flight!
After breakfast I changed back into my clothes, returned to my seat and my bedding had already been cleared away for me. A bit of reading and we were ready to arrive at O’Hare about 90 minutes early, but then we circled on approach for about 30 minutes. After taxiing we were at the gate a full hour ahead of schedule. It had been awhile since I’ve arrived in Chicago off an international flight, I had an excruciatingly long walk along a sterile corridor with low ceiling and no adornment until almost out of nowhere was a picture of the President and Vice President. This time it was just a short walk to immigration, virtually no line, and I didn’t get a single question on my way through. First class bags were off first on the premium cabin carousel, and I walked straight through customs.